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From time to time I see posts on the Ubuntu Forums about whether the newer AMD graphics cards (R7, R9) will work with Ubuntu. To find out for sure, I requested and Canonical graciously provided an XFX "Dual Dissipation" R9 290X.

So do these things work on Ubuntu?

The answer is "Yes" and "No." "Yes" -- and very well -- if the proprietary driver is used with the video acceleration packages. "No" -- not really -- if the current open source driver is used.

The testbed:
CPU: AMD Phenom II 1100T
Motherboard: Gigabyte 990FXA UD3
RAM: 16GB DDR3 1600
PSU: Silverstone Strider 1500W (Bronze, and about 5 years old)
SSD: 250GB Samsung 840 EVO (firmware update applied)
HDD: 500GB mechanical SATA
Case: Cooler Master HAF 912. 2x 200mm fans, 2x 140mm fans, middle drive
         cage removed to allow for the length of the card.
Monitors: 3 monitor setup. 2x DVI, 1x Display Port
The subject:
XFX R9 290X Dual Dissipation
Releases Tested:
12.04.4 LTS, 14.04.1 LTS, 14.10, 15.04 (development)
Hardware acceleration packages installed when the proprietary driver was installed:

xvba-va-driver, libva-glx1, libva-egl1, vainfo

Tests conducted:
  1. Install Ubuntu fresh from DVD and update.
  2. Test performance of the adapter using the open source Radeon driver
  3. Test installation of proprietary driver via Additional Drivers, packages    required for hardware acceleration installed via synaptic (which I added when I installed).
  4. Reinstall Ubuntu fresh from DVD and update.
  5. Test installation of proprietary driver from the terminal. This included the packages required for hardware acceleration.
  6. Test the performance of the proprietary driver.

Performance of driver tested with:

  1. Video content from the web.
  2. An .avi file from my network, "Big Buck Bunny". This provides movement from slow to fast with textures that are easy to pick out.
  3. A DVD movie with complex "chase" scenes and complex background movement.
  4. Team Fortress 2 on Steam.
  5. GLMark2 from the Phoronix Test Suite.